Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Jerusalem Day

All this week there will be celebrations in Israel for the 41st anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem in the Six-day war of 1967.
To coincide with Jerusalem Day the Govt. announced approval for permits to build 900 more housing units in the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Ze'ev and the southern one of Har Homa. Some believe that this announcement was intended to provide cover for PM Olmert in relation to his criminal charges, but this would seem odd, since he left today for the US and the State Dept already issued a statement criticizing this approval decision. Why would he invite this expected criticism as he arrives in the US?
The US and the international community considers all building by Israel, in supposedly "occupied territory," as illegal. But, after the 6-day war Israel annexed certain territories, including the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. So the neighborhoods where building is now being planned are actually part of Israel proper. Although others may not recognize this fact, Israel draws a clear distinction between these parts of municipal Jerusalem that are within Israel, and the "occupied" West Bank, that is not. The Israel Govt. has banned all new building within the latter areas, except for the approved expansion of established settlements. Since some of these have 15,000-20,000 inhabitants, it would be expecting too much not to allow natural growth, what should they do, stop having Jewish children?
So one must draw a clear distinction between areas that are under Israeli sovereignty and those that are not but are currently the subject of negotiation as part of a putative Palestinian State. Also, distinct are those areas that are already part of the PA, namely the cities of Ramallah, Jenin, Nablus, Kalkilya, Tulkarm, Bethlehem, Jericho and their surroundings (containing 98% of the Arab population of the West Bank). In the negotiations, Israel intends to claim and annex those areas that have a dense Jewish population, including Maale Adumim, Kfar Etzion (that was Jewish-owned before 1948), and Ariel. These comprise about 7% of the total West Bank area. It was recognized that Israel could retain such areas in the letter of Pres. Bush relating to the Road Map negotiations.
An especially difficult area is that known as "E1" between Jerusalem (i.e outside the municipal and State boundaries) and Maale Adumim. This area could be a security bridge between the two cities, or if transected north-south, it could be a corridor beween the Palestinian north West Bank (Samaria) and the south West Bank (Judea). Yesterday, before his trip, PM Olmert met with PA Pres. Abbas, and the issue of E1 was raised. Until now Israel has not allowed any residential construction in E1, although a new Israeli Police Station has been built there. The negotiations have not progressed so far, and the longer it takes the more likely it is that Israel will allow building in E1 and this will make any future Palestinian State less contiguous.
There have been discussions about dividing Jerusalem between Israel and the future putative Palestinian state. Most Israelis strongly oppose this. Not only does it make little sense to re-divide a city and return it to the divisions of the past, but doing so would leave the Jewish heart of Jerusalem within mortar distance of any single terrorist who could bring the city to a standstill. Also, having an Arab sovereignty in Shuafat and other Arab neighborhoods would isolate some Jewish neighborhoods from Jerusalem itself and it would be difficult if not impossible to protect their inhabitants. Such a division would in effect be suicidal for Israel. Jerusalem must remain united and whole as the capital of the State of the Jewish people!


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